by Andrei Teofil LÖRINCZ
European Court of Human Rights (Third Section), sitting on
12 May 2009 as a Chamber composed of:
Ann Power, judges,
and Santiago Quesada, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 10 November 2004,
Having regard to the declaration submitted by the respondent Government on 30 June 2008 requesting the Court to strike the application out of the list of cases and the reply by the applicant’s successors to that declaration,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr Andrei Teofil Lörincz, was a Romanian national who was born in 1924 and lived in Deva. He died on 22 March 2005, but his wife (Maria Lörincz) and his daughter (Gilda-Eugenia Lörincz) decided to continue the application. They were represented before the Court by Mr Traian Dumitresc, a lawyer practising in Deva. The Romanian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Mr Răzvan-Horaţiu Radu.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
On 21 January 1998 the applicant lodged a civil action for recovery of a property seized by the State in 1968, under Decree no. 712/1966.
On 5 December 1997 the Deva Court of First Instance dismissed the action, considering that the property was not governed by the general law.
On 12 November 1998 the Hunedoara County Court allowed an appeal by the applicant, quashed the previous judgment and sent the case back for a fresh examination, as the property was governed by the general law and as the first-instance court was wrong when considering the seizure lawful.
After retrial, the Deva Court of First Instance dismissed the applicant’s action on 17 March 2000, as he had not proved his right of property.
On 12 June 2000 the Hunedoara County Court allowed an appeal by the applicant and quashed that judgment on the ground that the first-instance court had no jurisdiction ratione materiae. It retained the case for further consideration. On 30 April 2001 the same court allowed the applicant to recover his property because the seizure had been unlawful.
November 2001 the Alba Iulia Court of Appeal upheld an appeal by the
opposing parties and annulled the judgment of 30 April 2001. It found
that the court had neither verified of its own motion the parties’
locus standi, nor pronounced on the authorities’ plea of lack of standing. It retained the case for further consideration and on 21 December 2001 it held that the seizure had been unlawful and ordered the opposing parties to respect the applicant’s right of property.
On 6 June 2003 the applicant took possession of his property.
On 12 May 2004 the High Court of Cassation and Justice allowed an appeal by the opposing parties, quashed the judgment of 21 December 2001 and sent the case back for fresh consideration since the facts had not been fully established.
After retrial and after ordering an expert report, on 18 November 2005 the Alba Iulia Court of Appeal confirmed the restitutio in integrum.
That judgment became final on 29 January 2007.
The applicant complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention about the length of the proceedings.
By letter dated 30 June 2008 the Government informed the Court that they proposed to make a unilateral declaration with a view to resolving the issue raised by the application. They further requested the Court to strike out the application in accordance with Article 37 of the Convention.
The declaration provided as follows:
“Le Gouvernement déclare – au moyen de la présente déclaration unilatérale – qu’il reconnaît la durée excessive de la procédure interne engagée par la partie requérante.
Le Gouvernement déclare être prêt à verser à la partie requérante au titre de satisfaction équitable la somme de 2 700 EUR, montant qu’il considère comme raisonnable au vu de la jurisprudence de la Cour. Cette somme qui couvrira tout préjudice matériel et moral ainsi que les frais et dépens, ne sera soumise à aucun impôt. Elle sera versée en lei roumains au taux applicable à la date du paiement sur le compte bancaire indiqué par la partie requérante, dans les trois mois suivant la date de la notification de la décision de la Cour rendue conformément à l’article 37 § 1 de la Convention européenne des droits de l’Homme. A défaut de règlement dans ledit délai, le Gouvernement s’engage à verser, à compter de l’expiration de celui-ci et jusqu’au règlement effectif de la somme en question, un intérêt simple à un taux égal à celui de la facilité de prêt marginal de la Banque centrale européenne, augmenté de trois points de pourcentage.
Le Gouvernement invite respectueusement la Cour à dire que la poursuite de l’examen de la requête n’est plus justifiée et à la rayer du rôle en vertu de l’article 37 § 1 c) de la Convention.”
In a letter of 22 September 2008 the applicant’s successors expressed the view that the sum mentioned in the Government’s declaration was unacceptably low, taking into account the fact that between 1999 and 2003 the State had rented out their property for a total amount of 184,800 United States dollars (USD).
The Court reiterates that Article 37 of the Convention provides that it may at any stage of the proceedings decide to strike an application out of its list of cases where the circumstances lead to one of the conclusions specified under (a), (b) or (c) of paragraph 1 of that Article. Article 37 § 1 (c) enables the Court in particular to strike a case out of its list if:
“for any other reason established by the Court, it is no longer justified to continue the examination of the application”.
It also states that in certain circumstances it may strike out an application under Article 37 § 1(c) on the basis of a unilateral declaration by a respondent Government even if the applicant wishes the examination of the case to be continued.
To this end, the Court will examine carefully the declaration in the
light of the principles emerging from its case-law, in particular Tahsin
Acar v. Turkey, [GC], no. 26307/95, §§ 75-77, ECHR 2003-VI;
Meriakri v. Moldova (striking out), no. 53487/99, 1 March 2005);
WAZA Spółka z o.o. v. Poland (dec.), no. 11602/02, 26 June 2007; and Lazăr v. Romania (dec.), no. 30159/03, 25 November 2008.
The Court has established in a number of cases, including those brought against Romania, its practice concerning complaints of violation of the right to a hearing within a reasonable time (see, for example, Frydlender v. France [GC], no. 30979/96, § 43, ECHR 2000-VII; Cocchiarella v. Italy [GC], no. 64886/01, §§ 69-98, ECHR 2006 ....; Cârstea and Grecu v. Romania, no. 56326/00, 15 June 2006; and Craiu v. Romania, no. 26662/02, 7 October 2008).
Having regard to the nature of the admissions contained in the Government’s declaration, as well as the amount of compensation proposed, the Court considers that it is no longer justified to continue the examination of the application (Article 37 § 1(c)).
Moreover, in light of the above considerations, and in particular given the clear and extensive case-law on the topic, the Court is satisfied that respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and the Protocols thereto does not require it to continue the examination of the application (Article 37 § 1 in fine).
Accordingly, it should be struck out of the list.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Takes note of the terms of the respondent Government’s declaration and of the modalities for ensuring compliance with the undertakings referred to therein;
Decides to strike the application out of its list of cases in accordance with Article 37 § 1 (c) of the Convention.
Santiago Quesada Josep